DOVER, Del. — Adam Stevens, Kyle Busch‘s crew chief, faces a potential four-race suspension after Busch’s left rear tire came off following a pit stop 19 laps into the NASCAR Cup race Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
The Joe Gibbs Racing tire changer did not get any of the five lug nuts tight on Busch’s left rear (the gun’s setting apparently didn’t change from loose to tight), and Busch left the pit stall when the jack man, thinking the wheel was tight, dropped the jack.
NASCAR established the rule in 2015 when it stopped officiating how many lug nuts on the car were tight during each pit stop. Teams began tightening only three of the five lug nuts, and NASCAR was concerned about loose wheels coming off the cars.
The rulebook states that “loss of wheel(s) due to improper installation will result in a mandatory minimum four-race suspension of the crew chief and the tire changer and tire carrier of the lost wheel(s).”
NASCAR likely will announce any penalties Wednesday after reviewing what happened.
“One thing’s for sure — we were trying to get the lug nuts on there, but we didn’t and the jack got dropped,” team owner Joe Gibbs said. “We’ll just explain to them exactly what happened and see what they say.
“Obviously, the rulebook, what we’re trying to prevent, is somebody going with less lug nuts. That certainly wasn’t our case. We were trying to get them on.”
Gibbs said that if NASCAR issues the penalty as stated in the rulebook, it would be severe.
“Anytime you lose Adam Stevens, that’s a big deal for us,” Gibbs said. “You lose your crew chief, that would be a huge deal. All of [those guys are] big. That’s a huge penalty.”
The rule had not had to be enforced until two incidents at Dover. Two days before Busch had his issue Sunday, Chase Briscoe of Brad Keselowski Racing had a similar issue in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Keselowski said intent should be considered when deciding whether to issue a suspension. He said he wants to use his truck series team to develop crew members, and mistakes need to be taken into consideration.
He wasn’t sure if the issue for the Joe Gibbs Racing team Sunday would help or hurt his argument, considering it was a well-established Cup crew that made the mistake.
“The current penalty is probably not the right fit for the situation,” Keselowski said, “and maybe it will give NASCAR another day … and see that the rule is created for something intentional to happen, not for something accidental to happen — and that will give NASCAR another chance to look at it and think about it.
“Maybe that’s good, maybe that’s bad [that Busch had the issue]. I don’t know. I think [the rule] definitely could use a little sharpening with the pencil.”